Many yogis are surprised to discover that so little of the Yoga Sutras is about asana/ In the yogic path, movement only comprises a small part of what it means to seek wisdom. In the Sutras, Patanjali codified his ideas into eight different paths, with asana being only one of them. He states at the beginning of the treatise that the purpose of Yoga is to still the mind and find peace. While the western world has of late fixated on the idea of Yoga as a method of perfecting the physical body, asana was originally practiced so that one could then sit with ease in meditation.
Literacy has become the norm in much of the world, but this was not always the case. As a result of this, oral tradition has developed ways to extend bardic memory and make difficult concepts easier to recognize. One example of this is the use of rhyme. Another is the development of the idea of aphorisms, or short statements meant to convey important and complex ideas. The Judeo-Christian Bible uses this form in the book of Proverbs; similarly, sutras were meant to be memorized, repeated, and used as a basis of meditation.
This is the reason why understanding the Yoga Sutras is such a challenge. It’s not enough to simply read through the four books of the essay; rather, each verse needs to be unpacked and taken in. Study of each sutra is important, but so is simply sitting with the ideas and allowing them to enter into one’s consciousness. For this reason, various sutras are often chanted; this brings the words off the page and utilizes more than one sense. By seeing, hearing, and moving our mouths, one experiences each sutra more fully.
You Should Also Read:
The Historical Patanjali
Patanjali and the Yoga Sutras
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